Teachers and parents wary of fall instruction
By: Noemi Elliott
As the first day of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, teachers across the United States are wary of holding classes in-person. With increasing concerns about health and safety, teachers unions are playing a large role in determining the course of instruction in the fall.
Alongside concerns of the location of classes, many teachers also raise questions as to the nature of online classes. With many parents working during the day, they are unable to supervise online learning, making them the biggest supporters for in-person classes.
On the other hand, political leaders are prioritizing the economy over financial support, leaving schools without adequate guidance and support.
“It’s been a terrible disservice to parents, to kids, to educators, who basically are left holding the bag and trying to figure this out,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
According to a survey conducted in 2016, approximately 70 percent of teachers are part of a union. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teachers union, announced it would back members to go on strike because of unsafe working conditions.
The union noted that various safeguarding measures should be implemented before schools reopen. Comprehensive contact tracing within schools, mandatory mask-wearing, and upgraded ventilation systems were among the demands.
“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten at the union’s annual convention, held online this year due to the pandemic.
In Los Angeles, both teachers and parents alike are unhappy with the district’s plans for distance learning. The United Teachers Los Angeles teachers union opposed the 8:30 a.m.-to-3 p.m proposed schedule, as well as the requirement to work from empty school classrooms.
“If a teacher does not feel comfortable, and the teacher is not secure in the modality, they are not going to flourish and give the best of themselves,” said local union president Karla Hernandez-Mats.
To parents, a primary concern is the quality of online education. As many were disappointed with instruction in the spring, parents are pushing for traditional school hours and quality coursework.
“It is clear that the district’s distance-learning program in the spring violated students’ constitutional right to an education,” said Seth Litt, executive director of the Los Angeles advocacy group Parent Revolution, one of the groups that threatened litigation. “This wasn’t a natural result of COVID-19.”